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FDA chief will not lead study on drug imports

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration, responding to complaints from lawmakers, has decided not to appoint the government's food and drug regulator to lead a government study of importing drugs from Canada.

Tommy Thompson, health and human services secretary, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday he was aware of the criticism of his decision last month to name Mark McClellan as chairman of a commission that is to report to Congress by December.

McClellan, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, has been a leading opponent of allowing drugs from abroad, citing concerns about product safety. Lawmakers who want to ease Americans' access to cheaper drugs from abroad had criticized Thompson for naming McClellan to the top job.

McClellan, meanwhile, also reversed course and said he plans to appear today before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to answer questions about the issue.

As a result, McClellan's confirmation as the administrator of the federal agency that runs the Medicare and Medicaid programs was expected to move ahead.

Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, said he would block Senate confirmation until McClellan answered questions about importing drugs from Canada.

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